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Eddie Izzard is Dressed to Kill.

British standup comic Eddie Izzard. The cross-dressing comic is a household name in England, but little known here. His new one-man show is "Dress to Kill" (at New York's Westbeth Theater, in the West Village). A New York Times review describes him as "a ticklingly entertaining hybrid of mainstream cultural influences and offbeat personal tendencies." (Interview by Barbara Bogaev)


Other segments from the episode on April 13, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, April 13, 1998: Interview with Eddie Izzard; Review of the television program "Teletubbies"; Interview with Liz Tilberis; Review of Helen Boatwright's album "The Songs of…


Date: APRIL 13, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 041301np.217
Head: Dress to Kill
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:06

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev in for Terry Gross.

A lot of standup comedians come on stage in conventional clothes -- jeans or maybe a suit. It's their material which is shocking and scandalous. Then, there's British comedian Eddie Izzard who dresses in drag and talks about toast.

EDDIE IZZARD, COMEDIAN: Toasted! Ah, toasters are good, like them -- like toast. Mmmm.


He's got a toaster there, but it's got a turning-dial knob thing on the side, and it lies to us.


It does not tell the truth, for it has numbers from one to six and they're lies. You set on four; you put bread in on four; and boom, comes up three -- three. This is three toast. No good at all. Hardly done. You set and change to five. It comes up six. This is six -- all burnt, all burnt. Scratch, scratch, scratch (expletive deleted) in. Forget it.

'Cause The toaster's in there going: "stay down, lads, stay down." "Stay down, go for the burn; no pain no gain; no fish no fowl; no socks no shoes; no hair, no haircuts. And the other toaster is going: what the hell are you talking about?


BOGAEV: Eddie Izzard's new one-man show, "Dressed to Kill," is running off-Broadway at the Westbeth Theater. He's a cult figure in England, where Channel Four television once celebrated his birthday by proclaiming it Eddie Izzard day -- scheduling all his favorite movies and TV series, including "The Six Million Dollar Man."

John Cleese of Monty Python, one of Izzard's idols, calls him the funniest man in England -- maybe on the planet. His one-man show, Dressed to Kill, is basically full speed ahead standup comedy -- a mixture of skits about anything and everything from British imperialism and the Anglican Church to the American space program and Star Trek.

You have a sketch in Dressed to Kill about Engelbert Humperdinck and after -- after a bit you say very seriously, it was sad though that you just heard on the news that Humperdinck died in L.A. yesterday. And you get everyone going. Everyone believes this. Then you say: "no he didn't. You're all so gullible."

And you go back and forth. You have people "yes he did," "no, he didn't." You have tremendous control over the audience. How did you learn to command that kind of control over an audience?

IZZARD: That's through street performing. Yeah, that's -- you learn to manipulate the energy of the crowd, which sounds kind of floaty and it's sort of...

BOGAEV: New Age-y.

IZZARD: But yeah, but it is true. An audience has an energy and it can be -- it can all over the place or it can be quite -- and if you can -- if you're a good performer, you can knit it together as a type thing, so that they react as one.

And the street performing is so experimental, because you constantly have cats and dogs and cars driving through your show and drunk people walking through your show, and police telling you to move on. And it's just -- and the weather starts raining on your head or it snows or there's wind or -- so there's a lot of natural ad-libbing happening, or natural forces happening against your show.

So you just learn to be able to deal with anything. After street performing, you can deal with anything.

BOGAEV: How do you handling heckling? Do you try to take it as a challenge to work the heckling into your act?

IZZARD: No, actually -- it's just another -- I've analyzed heckling enough to know that it's not really a problem. I've done far too much performing for them to be able to do anything to me. And it's -- you basically -- the best position to adopt if you're being heckled as a performer is a hugely arrogant one.

And which is quite fun -- being able to play arrogance or just be incurably arrogant, 'cause it's normally not a very socially acceptable position to adopt. But if someone starts challenging your show, then you would just -- you can just tear them apart because they'll never -- they will never have had as much experience as you've had on stage.

So they challenge you, and they think it's you against them. But in fact, the whole audience, if they're with you at this point, is your gang. So, they're on your side. They want you to win. And in fact, most hecklers -- 90 percent of hecklers -- are actually just trying to help you or trying to feed the show, unless you're actually on stage and dying thunderously, and having a really bad time, and then hecklers come in and attack.

BOGAEV: You say right at the start of your new show that you are a male transvestite and you fancy women. You're a tomboy. You're a male lesbian.

IZZARD: Who said that?


God, that's all -- yes, that's absolutely true. And what did I say? Male tomboy? Yeah, male tomboy or male lesbian. Male lesbian explains and confuses at the same time, which I like 'cause it's kind of like washing powder -- washing or cleans, (Unintelligible) hangs, as it flips over.

Yeah, 'cause most male transvestites do fancy women, I believe -- I strongly believe that, 'cause there's distinct link ups -- a lot of sexuality traits we go together. And in the alternative sex world -- (unintelligible) gay lesbian of TV, a lot of people hate using the word "transvestite" 'cause there're very negative connotations on it. But I'm actually reclaiming on that word.

But "TV" is the shortened version of it, or cross-dresser or -- but in fact there are no cross-dressers because, I mean, transvestite just is Latin for cross-dressers, so, why we should go around using a Latin term, I do not know. But you know, there were no women transvestites either. And since the '20s, they've been -- women have successfully removed the term "transvestite" from our social dictionary. Don't you think?

BOGAEV: Absolutely. There's no meaning.

IZZARD: Yeah, it has been totally -- whereas back in the '20s, it would have been used if we'd went back in a time machine or looked in history books. It was used as reference, and they had women doing male impersonations on stage in vaudeville. They definitely did in London. And now, it's gone.

So, that's great. Women have total clothing rights and I think men have total clothing rights. If they want them, they're just sitting there to grab. So I grabbed them and I wear whatever I want, and it has nothing to do with my comedy.

BOGAEV: How do you choose what to wear?

IZZARD: Well, I go into a choice section. It's part of my brain. And it has little gates, "yes" or "no." And I go through all my clothing and I go "yes," "no." Well, how do you choose where you wear clothes? I just choose by the normal thought process. It's -- there's no big deal. And, how do you choose when you wear clothes? You just -- how you feel there, yeah?

BOGAEV: Right, right, right.

IZZARD: And it's that kind of thing.

BOGAEV: Well thank God, no one looks at me when I do my work. I mean, that's...


IZZARD: Oh yeah, when you're on stage, well then it's sort of -- does discover that, and this, and I end up in this sort of tomboy area where you kind of -- I don't know -- I keep trying moving it around. Clothes are just clothes. They're just bits of cloth. Just wear 'em. It doesn't matter.

BOGAEV: When you first came out -- some people when they first come out, they have a female persona. They (unintelligible) another name when they dress as a woman or whatever -- put these clothes on. Did you do that?

IZZARD: Well sort of, but there was an idea. 'Cause I would be, as I said, male lesbian, 'cause I'd be quite happy to be a woman, but I look very male-like 'cause when you hit your teenage period, the -- there's coding going in. So -- and everyone's -- but you know, up to puberty, girls and boys have a pretty similar facial shape. But then, I've got into this sort of male jawline area, so it's -- I just look like a guy who wears makeup.

So yeah, when I saw -- if I was -- initially when I came out, I was sort of trying to pass as a woman type thing, but everyone said "yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir" getting in and out of taxis or whatever, so I thought: "oh, well stuff this. This isn't gonna work."

I'm very practical -- very practical in my approach to being -- getting this thing working for me. So, I've come to a much more sort of tomboy area. And it's also -- it's much easier for me 'cause I'm in the entertainment world. You know, if you're a lawyer; if you're a forklift truck driver -- and there's a lot of -- 'cause if you are a transvestite, there's a lot male in you. There's a lot of -- you know, a lot of people in the army; a lot of people do very male jobs -- and are TV.

And it's a tricky area because, you know, you're surrounded by a lot of people who are deeply into macho and machismo. And so trying to express your feminine side is very difficult in that middle area; or trying to get to a middle area.

But in the entertainment world, it's our duty in the end to find the way out, because you know that Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn were the first women to really wear pants, and so, get that whole thing going. And they were big movie stars. So everyone said: "oh if they can do it, then we can do it," and then it became a fashion thing. And that's the way it's gotta start.

So you know, by the -- by the -- when we get in the 21st century, it's gonna chill out and everyone can wear whatever clothes they want. It'll take some time, but you know, it's -- it's much more positive these days.

BOGAEV: I don't want to beat this to death, but I do -- I do have one more question. I'm just curious...

IZZARD: Beat it to death.


BOGAEV: ... when you -- when you decide to come out, I imagine you have to experiment a little bit first.

IZZARD: Clothing wise?

BOGAEV: Do you -- yeah -- do you start very, very discreetly?

IZZARD: Frumpy.

BOGAEV: Or frump...

IZZARD: No, frumpy. You have to go through frumpy transvestite. Well, it's somewhere between frumpy and over the top. You have to go through your teenage girl phase.

You know when teenage girls first get access to clothing -- because there's a phase where -- I remember watching a sort of magazine daytime chat show type thing in London, in the United Kingdom, and there's a mother going on about her daughter, she was 11. She was wearing these high-heeled shoes. She'd caught her -- her own daughter, wearing high heels and makeup and "I told her to get this stuff off" she was saying.

And I thought: hey, this girl is just being me. This teenage girl -- that's what I would have gone through. Because it's just fun clothing. That's why I think women who do want to wear heels and makeup and whatever, it's just kind of fun.

And then when they -- you go through the teenage girl phase, where you go to your first disco and teenage girls just wear far too much and there's too much makeup; skirts too shorten and way over the top. And then in the 20s, when women get in their 20s, I feel they chill out and think: "oh, I'm not going to wear this all the time. This is a real pain." And just -- it's so laborious, but you know, makeup is quite a -- just fiddly to do, and so you'd just rather not wear makeup.

So women in their 20s and their 30s, they just chill out and say: "well if I want to dress up, I can; but if I want to dress down, I can as well." And that's the phase I've got to now. So, I started out and the heels were too high and it -- and the look was all wrong.

And you have to also get a look. You have to be able to wear clothes so that you can have friends saying: "oh, that doesn't work;" or "that looked good on you" "that doesn't work" -- and you know, I've got a kind of blokey male body, so I've got to say: what goes with this? And what doesn't go with this?

And OK, my legs are better. All right, that's good. But you know -- and just trying to get -- and my body's shaped slightly different. So -- but then a lot of women have -- there's women who go through -- and men who go through lots of different facial looks and body shapes. There's women who are very mannish looking; there's men that are very feminine looking. And there's -- the whole gamut of range of looks are there.

So, you can always get a look that will work for you.

BOGAEV: My guest is British comedian Eddie Izzard. His new one-man show is Dressed to Kill. He's appearing at the Westbeth Theater off-Broadway in New York City.

We're going to take a short break and then we'll talk some more.

This is FRESH AIR.

I'm talking with British comedian Eddie Izzard. And his new one-man show is Dressed to Kill. It's appearing at the Westbeth Theater off-Broadway.

Your mother died when you were six.


BOGAEV: Did you develop ways of coping, as kids do, have imaginary playmates or magic conversations with them?

IZZARD: No, I started performing, I think, because of that. I mean, people do think: "oh, your mother died. Oh that means that's the -- the transvestite link-up thing." But I don't think so 'cause I just knew I was TV before she died.

But, I don't know. I'm still open-minded about that. I think the key thing that happened was that the performing happened. Because I wasn't really -- I remember doing a play, doing a sort of school play. I was six. I was a raven. My mother made me a raven suit. And I'm glad I -- I wasn't very good as a raven. And that's good 'cause, you know, there's not a lot of raven parts around.

And, I wasn't that bothered about doing the show. But then after she died, I remember seeing a play and thinking: "ooh -- ooh, I've gotta do this." And there was sort of applause going on. And I think it's a surrogate affection machine, 'cause my mum was there and she was very affectionate. Then she disappears and then the audience is there. And I have to perform, you know.

It's quite good because you don't just stand there, and they give you affection. You -- you've gotta go out and do your best. And then, you know, if you're interesting, they go: "hey, that's good." And then, it sort of takes off.

BOGAEV: You know, it's really the opposite of unconditional love.

IZZARD: Yes, it's conditional. It's very conditional, depending on the reviews.

BOGAEV: You've acted on stage in London in Mamet plays and other plays. You have a movie coming out with Sean Connery -- the -- a take-off on "The Avengers" -- the old Avengers series. What's your role like?

IZZARD: I have the biggest role in The Avengers. It's really my film and Sean...

BOGAEV: Cameos.

IZZARD: ... well no, it's -- no, I have a small role. I'm a small -- Sean Connery is a bad guy and I'm second bad guy. And I go around hitting people on the head, and I stare at them when I hit them. And I chew gum. And I have a huge fight with Uma Thurman, who's Emma Peel, and wears a lot of very tight rubbery-type clothing, which looks really good on her.

And so yeah -- so it's a -- my role is more supporting and helping them get their lines right and giving them cups of tea and stuff. But it's -- yeah, it's The Avengers, which not everyone knows them in America, but it's a -- was a great British cult kind of quirky, campy-type thing. Camp in a good way; not camp in a -- camp in a sort of sassy, surreal, and dry humor-type way.

BOGAEV: You have a really -- a physical presence, and your face is very expressive. Did you have to tone anything down to act on screen? I'm thinking that exaggerates, of course, every facial expression, especially in closeup.

IZZARD: Yeah, I don't do comedy roles on television, so it's a totally different beast, really. I approach it in a totally different way and I don't -- yeah, I don't pull big old faces. "Hey look, I can do wide-mouth frog impressions."

BOGAEV: You don't want to be cast as a funny -- in a funny role?

IZZARD: Yeah. I don't do comedy roles like that. And I'm not doing transvestite roles 'cause everyone's come to say: "hey, comedy transvestite; here, is a comedy transvestite role. And I'm just going no. I'm just going to play straight roles, that are straight dramatically and just ordinary, orthodox sexuality area.

Later on, I can play a transvestite role, when I find the right one or whatever. But -- and comedy, I don't play comedy 'cause my comedy is -- I was very impressed with Steve Martin. And if -- I just listened to his CD again -- early CDs of standup.

And if you hit in this area of kind of crazy surreal stuff, people just want to see you do that. They don't want to see you do anything, any straight role because the hits of comedy are just so buzzy that you don't want -- you can't wait around to get the slow feel, the slow burn of someone who's bringing a character to a screen over, you know, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes. You get drawn into believing in this person as being a real person.

BOGAEV: Eddie Izzard, I want to thank you so much. It was a pleasure to talk with you today.

IZZARD: Thanks very much.

BOGAEV: Eddie Izzard's one man show, Dressed to Kill, is running at the Westbeth Theater in New York.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest: Eddie Izzard
High: British standup comic Eddie Izzard. The cross-dressing comic is a household name in England, but little known here. His new one-man show is "Dress to Kill" at New York's Westbeth Theater, in the West Village. A New York Times review describes him as "a ticklingly entertaining hybrid of mainstream cultural influences and offbeat personal tendencies."
Spec: Media; Theater; Eddie Izzard; Europe; Britain; Dress to Kill
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Dress to Kill
Date: APRIL 13, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 041302np.217
Head: Teletubbies
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:25

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: Last week, the British TV series "Teletubbies" came to America via PBS. The show is aimed at young viewers -- one to three years old. Lots of critics are complaining that the show should be reviled for targeting an audience that young, and for programming a children's show that's full of repetition, baby talk, and surrealistic images.

But our TV critic David Bianculli isn't complaining at all.


ANNOUNCER: Time for Teletubbies. Time for Teletubbies. Time for Teletubbies. Time for Teletubbies.


TINKY-WINKY: Tinky-Winky.


DIPSY: Dipsy.


LA LA: La La.

ANNOUNCER: Poe (ph).

POE: Poe.


TELETUBBIES: Teletubbies.

ANNOUNCER: Say hello.


DAVID BIANCULLI, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: The way I figure it, your reaction to Teletubbies is directly linked to your reaction to another PBS preschool series, "Barney and Friends." If you dislike Barney, you'll probably like Teletubbies. And since Barney to me is the purple anti-Christ, I love Teletubbies.

Everything that Barney does wrong, Teletubbies does right. Barney takes existing folk songs and nursery rhymes and butchers them by substituting its own idiotic lyrics. Teletubbies presents original music, very charming music, and classic, unaltered nursery rhymes. Where Barney lives in our world, the four Teletubbies, who look like the results of Munchkins mated with Muppets, live in their own.

It's a rolling pasture with real rabbits and wildflowers all around, and with a built-in, grass-covered dome home where the Teletubbies sleep, eat, and exercise. In England, where the BBC introduced Teletubbies 14 months ago, it's become the most popular children's program in British TV history.

It's also a cult hit among college students, who have embraced Teletubbies with giddy affection as a sort of drug-free '60s-era acid flashback. For America, most of the British voices and film shorts of little kids at play have been replaced with home-grown counterparts. But the dubbing isn't that extensive.

The four plush roly-poly Teletubbies -- Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, LaLa, and Poe don't say much. And their vocabulary is strictly baby talk. Their favorite phrases are "'gain" and "big hugs." Each episode of Teletubbies has the same structure, allowing for both familiarity and expectation from a very early age.

Each Teletubbies begins and ends with, respectively, a sunrise and sunset, except that within the sun is the face of a happy squealing baby, delighting in all the action down below. Meanwhile, the Teletubbies jump up and down or dance to music and nursery rhymes, which are broadcast from speakers that rise out of the ground like submarine periscopes.





NARRATOR: Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady
Upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers
And bells on her toes
She shell have music
Wherever she goes.



"Gain, 'again."


NARRATOR: Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross...

BIANCULLI: Many critics, acting like crabby Teletubbies, are jumping up and down, too -- complaining about what they see as the show's strong Orwellian subtext. They hate the repetition, and they're spooked by the idea that each Teletubbie has an antenna atop his or her head and receives video signals that are displayed on the Teletubbies' teletummies. These incoming signals are short films about very little kids doing things like riding ponies and taking stroller rides.

But let's get real here and allow kids to get a little less real. Any adult viewers who don't see the magic of Teletubbies are like the adults in the "Polar Express" who can no longer hear the tinkle of the bell from Santa's sleigh, because they've lost their ability to believe. The Teletubbies' simple physical actions -- rolling, jumping, hugging, walking -- are things even toddlers can emulate.

When a Teletubbie screams "'gain" and an action or song is repeated, it's to please the youngest viewers, for whom repetition is a joy, not an ordeal. To parents who don't want their toddlers and young preschoolers to watch TV, don't let them watch. It's your choice and the choice is that simple.

But when one of the more popular TV shows in the 2-10 age bracket is "The Jerry Springer Show," no one should give this new PBS series a hard time.

For me, Teletubbies gets big hugs.

BOGAEV: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.

I'm Barbara Bogaev and this is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: David Bianculli, New York; Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
High: TV critic David Bianculli reviews "Teletubbies" the British TV series geared for children, one to three years old, which premieres on PBS this week.
Spec: Media; Television; Youth; Europe; Britain; BBC; Teletubbies
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Teletubbies
Date: APRIL 13, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 041303np.217
Head: No Time To Die
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:30

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, sitting in for Terry Gross.

By anyone's standards, as editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar and the mother of two young adopted sons, Liz Tilberis leads a full life. And that's not even considering the fact that she has cancer. Tilberis started her career in fashion in the psychedelic '60s at British Vogue. During 22 years at that magazine, she rose to editor and then landed the assignment of editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar.

In 1991, she moved her family to New York and completely reorganized Bazaar, which won two national magazine awards in her first year at the helm.

Then, Tilberis was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. She believes her cancer was caused by extensive fertility treatments which she underwent in her early 30s. Her new memoir, "No Time To Die," describes her life in fashion and her experience dealing with her disease.

I asked Liz Tilberis when she first started feeling ill.

LIZ TILBERIS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HARPER'S BAZAAR, AUTHOR, "NO TIME TO DIE": I had missed by yearly appointment, which was in the May of '93. And I was having quite a lot of symptoms. I was very depressed, which I never normally am. I felt very heavy and I'd been feeling that way since the August.

And it was now November. And I remember looking out of the house -- out of the window on Thanksgiving Day and thinking to myself: I'm really sick. I've got something wrong with me. I wonder if it's cancer?

And the minute I got back to the city, I rang my gynecologist and said I have to come in for an appointment. And it was then that she diagnosed it and that was when everything started to happen so fast, because that was sort of the first or second of December and I was operated on by the 17th of December.

BOGAEV: What made you think you had cancer?

TILBERIS: I don't know. It was just a thought that passed by and I -- and I think that that was the first time I really knew that I had to listen to my own body, because it was something that came just into my head as I looked out of the window. It was nothing -- you know, it was a very quiet moment. Everybody -- I was all alone. Everybody was out of the house. And I -- it just suddenly came to me. It had nothing to do with anything; nothing at all.

BOGAEV: It all seemed to happen very fast for you. You went in for surgery within days. The surgeon immediately operated and removed as much cancer as was possible. And then, your chemo started. Now, anyone undergoing chemotherapy worries about their hair and their appearance I imagine. But your business is all about appearance.

How much did you worry about how chemo would affect what you looked like? And how you colleagues and your competitors in the fashion world would judge you -- how you looked?

TILBERIS: Well, it was very interesting because one of my very best friends is a wonderful, wonderful hairdresser. And he had -- well, he had been cutting my hair for years. And when I -- we talked about the fact that I had had cancer and was about to have chemotherapy, which was really at Christmas time. I mean, I was operated just before Christmas.

And he said, I think -- 'cause I had, you know, a shoulder-length bob of kind of wonderfully white hair. And he -- you know, to me it wasn't my trademark, it was my symbol. And he said: I think, you know, if you're going to lose it, I think you should cut it off because you don't really want, you know, a whole kind of heap of hair on the pillow when you wake up because it does fall out.

The minute you have adramassin (ph), it falls out within 10 days of that. And so, I agreed to let him cut it. And we -- as -- just before I cut it, we got hold, via Sidney Lumet the film director, a wonderful man who could make wigs. Because as you can imagine, I was -- I was really -- I mean, vanity had taken over a bit. I was quite worried as to how I would present myself in the marketplace, so to speak, with no hair.

And he came on board. His name is Paul Huntley (ph) and he makes -- he's making wigs for everybody. And so, he made this beautiful wig. So, when my hair actually did fall out, I had what became known as "Larry" already sitting on my dressing table. And so, I could feel the confidence of knowing that I could put this wig on when I was going to go out and back to work again.

I think the other thing -- I was discussing this with a friend of mine who's just had breast cancer and lost all her hair -- and I think that what happens, of course, is that you're so happy to be alive that in the end, although you've made all these preparations for your wig and for everything else that, you know, to make yourself look normal again -- you're so happy to still be around your family and friends that it doesn't really -- when it actually happens, it's not nearly as important as you think it's going to be prior to it happening.

BOGAEV: Did you approach it, though, as a fashion editor: "OK, here I go. I'm making my cancer makeover."

TILBERIS: I didn't think of it like that, but I -- I actually addressed it that way, yes. I mean, I didn't consciously think this was it. But I really -- I realized I had two very, very important events that I had to deal with. In fact, three -- where I knew I would be -- I had to -- and one of them was I had to make a speech at the Waldorf, you know, to 4,000 people. Another one, I had to accept -- I had to give an award, rather, at the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

And that was -- that was very daunting. And another one was we gave a dinner for Richard Avedon at the Whitney. And I knew I had to look like a real human being by that time. So you know, that was when the resources that I do have, although not to do with my hair, I asked Ralph Lauren to make a dress for me and I asked Calvin to make something for me for one of them.

And you know, that's when the fashion industry is incredible and really wonderful, and everybody pulled their resources and I got clothes that actually fitted me because I had lost, at this point, 30 pounds overnight, so to speak, when I'd had the operation. So I was much skinnier and nothing fitted. I mean, I had dresses to wear, but I couldn't because I was, you know, a shell of my former self.

BOGAEV: At one point on this, I didn't know about chemotherapy, you lose your facial hair also? Your eyebrows? Your...

TILBERIS: Your eyebrows and your eyelashes, and you develop this rather unattractive red rim around your eyes as well. The only thing you don't lose is your mustache, is which is really depressing. So you keep the nastiest facial hair and lose the good bits, which is very sad and I -- nobody has to this day, although I've complained -- pointed out as to why that doesn't happen -- but anyway, so yes, I lost my eyebrows and I lost my eyelashes.

And you lose -- you don't really lose things like hair on your arms, for instance, although you lose underarm hair to a certain extent and you don't have to ever shave your legs. I mean, that's extraordinary. But your arms, somehow, don't get affected. It's very odd where the affections take place. There's definitely a long book in that, I think.

BOGAEV: You had a relapse in 1995 of cancer, and you underwent bone marrow transplant, which is by all accounts, including your own, just an inhumanly grueling ordeal. But you directed staff meetings for Harper's Bazaar from your hospital bed in the isolation ward, and the staff had to wear masks and gowns.

TILBERIS: Oh, it was terrible, but it was -- it was just a way of keeping going, I think. And I -- I did make a lot of really bad decisions when I was lying in bed, high as a kite on morphine, because that was the only kind of drug that can take the pain away, 'cause it's very, very painful.

BOGAEV: Wasn't part of you during these meetings saying to yourself: oh, is this really the time to talk about hemlines?

TILBERIS: But, the funny thing is that that's all that really matters because what's been done to you is being done, and so you -- you want desperately to survive. And you want -- I mean, I tried so hard to read books, but I couldn't concentrate. I tried so hard to watch television, and I couldn't concentrate. And work was really the only thing where I could really, fully grasp what was going on, and it was extraordinary.

And everybody was very tolerant. I mean, my staff were magnificent because I was not pretty, because you can't swallow, you're dribbling all the time and you have a little Hoover that sucks the, you know, the saliva out of your mouth. And it's not a pretty color -- it's not like regular saliva either.

So these people were coming up and hearing me talk about cover lines and you know, colors of the logo on the front of the magazine. And there I was Hoovering away this -- it was just ghastly. I mean, they were very lovely and I thank them all to this day for doing that.

BOGAEV: How is your health now?

TILBERIS: It's good. It's good. I mean, I still have a CA125 that blips. A normal person will have a CA125 of up to 35 points. When I was diagnosed in 1993, mine was well over 2,000, which means that there was a heavy dose of cancer circulating in my body.

But with all the chemos that I've gone through and only one lot of chemos really ever worked for me, so I've had a lot of chemo that I was resistant to, it's good. Meanwhile, they're trying to find chemos that when I really need to go back into having chemotherapy, which I probably will have to prophylactically, they are trying to find one that will actually work very well for me.

And so that's our battle now, is to find one that I'm very sensitive to that means that I will be able to reduce my CA125 to where it should be. It's not very elevated, but it does go up and down from time to times, because they monitor it very closely.

BOGAEV: My guest is Liz Tilberis. She worked her way up to the editor-in-chief of British Vogue over 22 years at that magazine. In 1992, she took over as editor of Harper's Bazaar in New York. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer not long after that.

She's written a memoir of her life in the fashion magazines and her experiences dealing with cancer. It's called No Time To Die. We're going to take a break now, Liz, and then we're going to talk some more.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back with Harper's Bazaar editor Liz Tilberis. Her new memoir is No Time To Die.

You write that British Vogue was the quasi-official documenter of the British Royal Family, and you of course featured Diana, Princess of Wales, many times in the magazine.

How did you help to shape her image?

TILBERIS: I didn't have anything to do with shaping her image in the early days. She first appeared on the Vogue scene about 1980 when she was engaged to be married. She was married in 1981. I started really working with her much later on, in about 1987, when I became the editor of British Vogue and realized that we had not taken any pictures of her for a while.

And then the first time I really wanted to work with her, I persuaded her to wear jeans and a white shirt, and be photographed with the boys at Highgrove. And although I didn't do the sitting, it was a sitting that I know she loved very, very much, and treasured, you know, until she died.

And it was really beautiful, and that was the very first time she sort of had been able to be casual in photographs, and we worked on from there with Patrick Marchali (ph) taking the pictures. We just got a kind of wonderful rapport going and every so -- six months or nine months, we'd have more pictures taken. And it was wonderful fun.

BOGAEV: Did the royal family try in any way to pressure or censor your ideas about her informal image?

TILBERIS: Not -- no, not about the informal image. But when we tried to get her on the cover a couple of times, they felt it was inappropriate. There was one very beautiful cover when she was wearing a white chiffon Gina Fertini (ph) evening dress that actually appears on the back of the book that was written about her. And it was a really lovely cover, but they -- the Buckingham Palace felt it was inappropriate because she was sitting on the floor.

And then, of course, the very famous one which has the tiara and she is sitting on the floor with the taffeta-embroidered dress, hugging her legs -- was the one that we were not allowed to use on the cover. But the minute we were able to release it, or we had to release it because that was the way we dealt with Buckingham Palace, we released it about two months later, and it was on every cover in every magazine right across the world and we were the only magazine that didn't have it on the cover -- which was very sad.

BOGAEV: You were hired away from British Vogue to Harper's Bazaar in New York. How does the American fashion scene differ from the British one? Is it a whole other world or aesthetic? Or is the fashion world so international that you didn't really have to adapt to much?

TILBERIS: The first point is yes, you're absolutely right. The fashion world is very, very international and I didn't have to adapt that much, I thought. But America has this incredible home market. The retailing system in America is so senior compared to Europe.

And it was that that's always attracted to America, because nowhere in the rest of the world can you go over 2,000 miles and find a similar store, whether it's Bloomingdale's, Nieman's, Sak's -- whoever. And it is incredibly good at supporting designers; in giving women in America what they want to wear.

And I think that was one of the great, great benefits about coming here is that fashion's taken very, very seriously. It's a very big industry. It's very, very important to the economics of the country. And in England, it's not. It's a -- although it's in the high street, it's not really at the senior level it is over here. And though you have stores like Devonan's (ph) and Marks and Spencer's and things like that, they deal in budget clothes.

And here in America -- yes, we have great, great companies like The Gap and J. Crew and so on, that do have wonderful, wonderful clothes at a budget price, you also have these very, very senior retailing stores. And I find America an incredible place. If you're going to have a fashion magazine, this is the country to have it in.

BOGAEV: One of the things you write that you most enjoy about your work is covering the big fashion shows -- the Paris couture -- from what little I know of these events from the media, it looks like a circus. It looks like people are fighting to get in.


BOGAEV: Is the whole scene as brutal as it looks on the evening news?

TILBERIS: Yes, in fact once a long time ago, a security guard pushed a colleague of mine, and she just -- we were going up, you know, those entrances to cattle trucks? Well, this was the entrance to a tent, but it was a cattle truck entrance.

In other words, it kind of grids going across it. And we were in our -- you know, dressed in our nice clothes because obviously we're supposed to be representing our magazines. And he pushed her and I thought she was going to fall into a foot of mud -- kind of puddle that was underneath the tent. And I was really angry.

So I punched him in the face. And unfortunately -- well, no, fortunately -- fortunately for the guard, nobody saw me hit him, but when he hit me back, everybody saw because we were on a sort of incline. And so, this guy was almost, I mean, pulverized to death for beating up this fashion editor, which wasn't really his fault.

So it does get pretty, pretty terrifying, I can tell you. And another time I was in Italy and I said to the people who I was with: "we should leave this placed immediately. I think there's -- I feel there's something really bad." And I -- we left. And the tent collapsed. And you know, a couple of people were really badly hurt.

And so it does get very hairy. On the other hand, it can be beautifully organized, as "Sale on Seventh" was this week. We had a wonderful time. The tents were beautifully organized. Even when we had that terrible rainstorm in the middle of the week, and we had -- they had snow to put the tents up, then they had a heat wave, then they had the monsoon -- and you know, it can be a wonderful experience.

I love going because I love sitting there and watching the clothes. That's my real joy. And it's taken me a long, long time to get to the front row, but I'm now in the front row. So I'm a lot safer than anyone else is.

BOGAEV: How much does it cost for you at Bazaar to cover a show, say, in Paris?

TILBERIS: Well, we cover the shows. We start in London, then we go to Milan; then we go to Paris. And it costs me well over $100,000 to send my crew there. And that -- what annoys me is that the length of time we're there is almost a waste of time, because we have long gaps between the designers we really want to see. And I feel that the authorities on -- in each country, actually, should be pulling the time down because eventually it's going to be too expensive for us to go at all. And that'll be a very sad moment, because it's where we get our adrenalin fix for the next six months.

So right now, we finish in June, but come July, the issue of July and August and September and October, we'll be using what we've just seen internationally for those issues.

BOGAEV: Who wears the clothes? I understand that the clothes that you see in the fashion shows aren't -- they aren't for everyday wear. What is their point, then?

TILBERIS: Well, they -- a lot of them are for everyday wear. The problem with the fashion shows is that there are now so many television cameras there that, by the time the television edits and airs 24 hours after the show, you eventually only see the really outlandish stuff. You know, if there's anything that the editors can, you know, that -- the kind of -- the nudity that occurs on the shows sometimes and the see-throughness obviously gets onto national television screens long before the good old camel coat gets there.

So when we actually show pictures of the camel coat in August and September -- ones that you and I'd like to wear -- and the raincoat and the, you know, the nice pair of shoes -- people are already terrified by the season because they've seen what the television companies have given them, with a few exceptions.

But I go to the shows to look for the latest trends, yes, and those are what we publish in probably August and September. But we also give wide, wide range to, you know, the much more wearable sweaters and the skirts that just come to the knee and the very nice wrapper -- the coats. So there's a lot of clothes in all the magazines that you can actually wear if you really study it.

Some of them are expensive; some of them are not. We try and balance the budget a bit for everybody.

BOGAEV: You've been at this for -- what? -- over 25 years, right?


BOGAEV: You've seen every flip-flop, then, on fashion over that time.


BOGAEV: What keeps you interested?

TILBERIS: I love clothes. I love fashion. I love the business. I have to say, it's the most amazing business. It's full of incredible characters -- really, really, professional people. And an enormous amount of kindness and an enormous amount of love and friendship. And you know, now the designers that I grew up with, you know, are -- like Karl Lagerfeld and Calvin and -- you know, they're friends.

And so for me, it's the only home I know and I love it. It's really a wonderful life.

BOGAEV: I want to thank you very much for talking today, Liz Tilberis. It was enjoyable.

TILBERIS: Thank you, Barbara.

BOGAEV: Liz Tilberis' new memoir is No Time To Die.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest: Liz Tilberis
High: Editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar, Liz Tilberis. She's written a new memoir about working in the fashion industry while battling ovarian cancer. It's called "No Time To Die."
Spec: Media; Fashion; Harper's Bazaar; Health and Medicine; Ovarian Cancer; Books; Authors; No Time To Die
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: No Time To Die
Date: APRIL 13, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 041304np.217
Head: Helen Boatwright Reissue
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:55

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: Here's a story about how our classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz finally found a recording he'd been trying to locate for more than 30 years.


HELEN BOATWRIGHT, SINGER, SINGING: Well, Saturdays in our backyard
Too little flowers are seen
One dress that climbs in brightest pink
And one in green

LLOYD SCHWARTZ, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Sometimes there are only five degrees of separation. About 30 years ago, I heard a concert at Harvard Sanders (ph) Theater I'll never forget -- a song cycle by Hindemuth (ph) sung by a wonderful American soprano named Helen Boatwright. The singing was limpid, honest, emotionally open. Her diction was perfect. Her voice was exquisite. I immediately wanted to get everything she'd ever recorded.

And the recording I wanted most was an album of songs by the cantankerous American composer Charles Ives, with Boatwright accompanied by the great Ives pianist, Ives editor, and Ives scholar, John Kirkpatrick. That recording, on the small Overtone (ph) Label, was already long out of print, and I was never able to find it.

Let's skip a few years. At Sanders Theater a few weeks ago, there was a memorial tribute for the late violinist Louis Krasner (ph) and his wife Adrian Galameer Krasner (ph). Krasner had been a champion of modern music and he made music history in 1936 by commissioning and playing the first performance of one of the masterpieces of 20th century music: Eban Berg's (ph) Violin Concerto.

One of the speakers at Harvard was the 80-year-old composer and violinist Howard Boatwright -- a student of Hindemuth's at Yale, the editor of Charles Ives' papers, and the retired dean of the School of Music at Syracuse University, where Louie Krasner had taught before he retired in 1974.

Sitting next to Howard Boatwright was his wife, Helen -- looking as radiant as she did when I first heard her in the same auditorium some 30 years before. I wanted to meet her and introduce myself. I mentioned my futile search for that Ives record, and she told me that it had been reissued on CD by CRI -- Composers Recording, Inc.

That night, I headed to the nearest record store and found the disc. I wasn't disappointed. "A song has a few rights -- the same as other ordinary citizens," Ives wrote. "If it feels like walking along the left-hand side of a street or sitting on a curb, why not let it?"

There's nothing predictable about an Ives song. Here's Helen Boatwright singing a passage from Ives' amazing 1914 setting of Vachel Lindsay's poem "General William Booth Enters Into Heaven."


BOATWRIGHT, SINGING: (unintelligible)
Round and round
And round and round
And round and round
And round and round
And round and round

SCHWARTZ: Or try the quirky little "Anne Street" (ph) -- a poem by someone named Morris Morris, that Ives found in the New York Herald on January 12, 1921.


BOATWRIGHT, SINGING: Quaint name and street
With the same ten feet
(unintelligible) Anne Street
(unintelligible) Anne Street
(Unintelligible) Anne Street
Then it quits
Some greet
Rather short Anne Street...

SCHWARTZ: The CRI CD also includes Helen Boatwright singing a series of Emily Dickinson poems set to music by her husband's colleague at Syracuse, Ernst Bacon, with the composer himself at the piano. Bacon worked on these from the 1930s to the 1960s, but they're not nearly as daring as what Ives wrote decades earlier. And this month, CRI has just released a CD devoted to the music of Howard Boatwright.

Four degrees of separation?

BOGAEV: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix. He reviewed the songs of Charles Ives and Ernst Bacon sung by Helen Boatwright on the CRI Label.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Lloyd Schwartz, Boston; Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
High: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews the long-awaited reissue of American soprano Helen Boatwright singing Charles Ives' compositions: "The Songs of Charles Ives and Ernst Bacon."
Spec: Music Industry; Media; Helen Boatwright; Charles Ives; Ernst Bacon
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Helen Boatwright Reissue
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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